Chapter Four

Once he was seated and belted next to her, his wife asked, "Are you okay to drive?"

"Yes." Why would she ask that?

"I mean you seem a little…flustered." She tapped his thigh.

"I am, but I can still drive." He quickly regained his composure, "How are you doing?"

She opened her mouth to answer, but stopped short. Nick offered his hand once more, as she clamped down on it with her hand and wrapped her other arm protectively around herself.

After the contraction passed, she called her OBGYN, and wasn't surprised when she was told to go to the hospital. Three contractions later, they walked through the doors of Desert Palm. Two contractions after that she was dressed in a hospital gown and attached to a fetal monitor. Nick did what he could to help his wife through the contractions, but it was hard for him to see the woman he loved in so much pain that she couldn't even talk. So, when she pulled him close to her and begged for an epidural, he made sure that she got what she wanted.

He had heard the common stories about how women went crazy when in labor, about how they would curse their husbands and scream out in agony. His beautiful, brave wife sought his comfort when she needed it, but didn't curse him once. After the epidural, she calmed considerably. They even watched some TV and discussed names.

Nick and Mandy followed the others back to her parents' home. The group sat around sharing stories, tears, and a few drinks, but as night began to fall, the gathering brokeup, Nick was surprised to hear Diane ask, "So Mandy, where are you and Nick staying?"

"What?" The question caught Mandy off guard. "Here. I thought?" She looked from a curious Diane to her brothers who wore looks of surprise similar to her own.

"Well, sweetie. I only have two extra bedrooms, and your brothers were already here for the holiday weekend."

"Mom," Josh began, trying to defuse the situation. "We can-"

"No Josh," Diane held up a hand. "Mandy understands, besides her friend is going to need a bed as well."

"Diane!" Mandy began to argue, but then began to shake her head in disbelief. "FINE." She grabbed her purse, and stormed off.

"Mandy, wait!" Michael called. "There's plenty of room!"

Nick followed Mandy out, hearing the two men protest their mother's words behind him. Mandy was leaning against the passenger door of his truck, so he took out the remote, and clicked the unlock button. The sound echoed against the quiet neighborhood that surrounded them.

Once inside the vehicle, Nick was surprised to see Mandy reaching for her seat belt. A part of him thought that after a few moments, she would calm down and go back inside. He was relieved to see Michael coming towards them. "Wait." He called, rapping on the window.

Mandy sat stoically, so Nick used his controller to roll down the passenger window.

"Mandy, come inside. You know there's plenty of room." His eyes jumped to Nick momentarily, "For both of you."

"No she doesn't want me there, and I don't want to be there." She choked the words out.

"Mandy, you know she doesn't mean anything by it…She just lost her husband."

"Right. She NEVER means anything by what she says to me, and I just lost my FATHER." She turned to Nick, "Drive."

Nick looked to Michael, unsure of how to proceed, but the other man only shrugged and sorrowfully backed away from the car. Slowly Nick turned the key in the ignition and pulled away from the curb.

"Where are we going?" Nick asked when his passenger hadn't said anything for ten minutes.

"What?" She looked over at him, and for the first time in the dark night he saw the tears streaming down her cheeks.

"Oh, honey." He reached over and wiped at one of wet tracks down the side of her face.

"I'm sorry. I never meant for you to be stuck in the middle of this." She sniffled.

"No, no, don't worry about that." He found a parking space on the side of the road and pulled over. Once he shifted the truck into park, his attention was fully on Mandy. "Look, you have nothing to be sorry for; I'm sorry that you're going through this." He wrapped his arms around her slender shoulders.

"Thank you." She whispered.

"For what?"

"For driving me, dealing with my crazy family, and watching me deal with my family."

"Why don't we find a hotel?" He was starting to enjoy the feel of Mandy in his embrace a little too much.

She sat up, bit her lip, and nodded. "There's a Holiday Inn just up the road a little."

They were able to get adjoining rooms in the hotel, the mass exodus of the holiday vacationers allowing them that fortune. Nick was getting situated when he heard a soft knock at the door that connected to Mandy's sleeping quarters. He opened the door to find her leaning against the door frame, nervously toying with the knob on her door. "Hey."

"Hi," he replied.

"I was thinking about going to the lounge downstairs…"


She shook her head slowly from one side to another, never breaking eye contact with him. "Thirsty."

"I see." He cocked an eyebrow.

"Come on, I'm buying." She swung her small purse over her shoulder and walked through his room to the door leading to the hall.

The elevator ride was quiet, but walking through the lobby Mandy commented, "Too bad I didn't know Diane was going kick me out of my father's house." Nick swallowed uncomfortably. "We could have brought out bathing suits and checked out the Jacuzzi." He just nodded.

They made their way to a small table in the back of the lounge. Mandy started out with a Long Island Iced Tea, while Nick ordered a beer. They made small talk as they drank. Nick asked her about growing up in San Diego, and Mandy intern got the scoop on Texas. Mandy then ordered a 7 & 7, but Nick being only halfway through his beer, declined the offer for a second.

He noticed Mandy relaxing slightly as the alcohol took effect. He didn't stop her when she ordered an Amaretto Sour and he was still nursing his first beer. He could only imagine how much he would be drinking if his father suddenly died, and he hadn't made it home in time to say 'Goodbye' and then was asked to leave his childhood home for a reason he still didn't understand. As far as he was concerned there probably wasn't enough alcohol behind the bar to make Mandy feel better, but he couldn't, in good conscious, let her make herself sick. "You wanna go for a walk?"

"Sure," she downed the last of her drink, and went to pull her credit card out of her wallet, when Nick stopped her.

"I got it." He pulled his own out.

"No, Nick. I said my treat and I meant it." She was louder than she had intended, but by God, she was going to win at least one argument today.

Nick held his hands up in defeat, she paid, and they walked out the door to the cool summer night. They walked for a little while, Mandy pointing out old hangouts, memories, and famous places along the way. Nick listening intently. While she wasn't falling down drunk, the effects of downing three drinks in a short period of time, on top of the couple she had shared with her family, did give her a bit of a buzz, but he found it cute when she would get confused mid-story or was too busy concentrating on her story that she would nearly bump into the occasional fire hydrant or lamp post.

Eventually they were down by the water. They stood there, leaning on the guardrail, looking out over the bay. The noises of the city behind them faded under the constant whoosh of the waves crashing just feet below where they stood.

"There's the Dinner cruise returning." Many pointed to a large white and blue boat not that far away.

Nick looked, "You were right about that you know? It was romantic." The memory saddened him.

"I'm glad I could help." She wasn't sure how to continue, but figured it the wrong words came out she could just blame it on the booze. "I'm sorry about you and Cindy."

She wasn't looking for a response, and Nick didn't give her one, they just stood there watching all of the happy couples prepare to disembark.

The breeze off the water picked up slightly, causing Mandy to shiver slightly. The movement did not go unnoticed by Nick, who instinctively wrapped his arm around her, pulling her slightly in front of him. Her body leaned into his chest trying to absorb as much heat as possible. Nick's arms held her body close, and they stood frozen like this for some time.

Nick was the first to speak, but his words mumbled together, lost in the little space between them. "Hmm?" Mandy asked, turning her head slightly to hear him better, but the movement put their lips mere centimeters apart, and after a brief pause, she reached slightly for his mouth, as he turned her body so as to have better access to her mouth. The kiss was soft and sweet, and slowly grew more intense. When the contact was released, neither moved. They just stood there lost in each others' eyes, worrying that the other felt regret, but when none was voiced, their lips rejoined in a passionate union, neither could believe, or wanted to end.

At 3:42 the next morning, Mandy gave birth to an eight pond, three ounce baby boy. Once the hubbub calmed, Nick stood next to his wife who cradled their newborn son in her arms. The world was momentarily perfect.

"Uh-oh, we've lost Daddy." Mandy teased, her eyes never left the newest love of her life.

"Wha-," He gave his wife a kiss on the cheek, "You are amazing." He was in awe, after the last few hours, he couldn't believe that she was even still awake, let alone lucid and taunting him.

"Couldn't have done it without you, Cowboy." She leaned into his shoulder, "This little guy still needs a name."

There's only one I can think of, "Patrick."

Tears began to form in Mandy's eyes, "Oh Nick," she kissed him, "Thank you."

The End

Thanks for coming along for the ride, and I hope you enjoyed reading this as much as I enjoyed writing it!